AMSAT sponsored a senior design project at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) this academic year.
The students included senior EE majors:
Bryce Salmi KB1LQC
Brent Salmi KB1LQD
Ian MacKenzie KB3OCF
The project was to develop a Maximum power point tracking (MPPT) circuit which is used to maximize the power obtained from a solar panel by forcing the cells to operate at their most efficient voltage regardless of the voltage required by the payload. One can also think of this as an impedance match. This optimum voltage changes slightly with variations in solar irradiance but changes greatly due to variations in solar panel temperature.
The MPPT utilizes a Texas Instruments MSP430 microcontroller to communicate telemetry data with the Fox satellite Internal Housekeeping Unit (IHU) designed by AMSAT for transmission to Earth via ham radio. The senior design group consisting of Brenton Salmi (KB1LQD), Bryce Salmi (KB1LQC), Ian MacKenzie (KB3OCF), and Daniel Corriero successfully implemented an analog MPPT designed for use in orbit over the five year mission intended for Fox-2 providing the amateur radio community with a 3U CubeSat carrying amateur radio communications equipment.
The students completed a working prototype which was on display in the AMSAT engineering booth at Dayton in May.
The project was entered into Texas Instruments’ 2013 Analog Design Contest for university students.
The AMSAT MPPT project was selected as one of the top 10 semi-finalists and the students were invited on an all-expenses paid trip to TI’s contest summit to be held July 21-23 in Dallas where the final winners will be announced.
Congratulations to the Fox-2 RIT MPPT team!
Technical Document (8 pages of technical information HIGHLY recommended reading):
Theory of Operations (In-depth technical documentation):
MPPT Testing Operational Walk-through:
Thanks to Bryce Salmi KB1LQC, ANS and Tony AA2TX for the above information.